Is A University Education All It’s Made Out To Be?

university education

University or College?

There’s no doubt about it – making a post-secondary education decision is hard. There’s tons of societal pressure to get a university degree, but with the current job market, the value of going into that level of student debt is coming into question.

Going through years of higher education, only to come out the other side floundering and jobless can make anyone feel lost and question their choices. Have times really changed that much? Is a university degree not worth the work?

university education

Almost half of undergraduates in Canada go on to pursue further studies, and those who do end up reporting higher earnings, according to Statistics Canada’s 2013 National Graduate Survey, which examined graduates from public and private post-secondary institutions in Canada.

As students prepare to head back to school, the question of whether it’s worth investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into post-secondary education is weighing on many young Canadians, as mounting debt and diminishing job prospects will be a reality for many of them.

“I think we are actually overselling the idea that everybody who wants a university degree should be able to go,” Ken Coates, professor and Canada research chair in regional innovation at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, told BNN in an interview. “I think we are just not being careful enough about who we are sending to university and what they’re studying when they are there.”

He explained that pushing more and more young people into university is “a really bad idea” because there are “not enough jobs out there.”

Weighing the cost of higher education

The stagnant job market is not only making it difficult for young people to find jobs that relate to their field of study, but it’s keeping graduates under a pile of debt that they are struggling to pay off.

Canadian full-time students in undergraduate programs paid 3.2 per cent more on average in tuition fees in 2015-16 compared to the previous school year, according to StatsCan; but Finnie points out that the rise is mostly due to inflation and that “student debt also increased as students were allowed to borrow more.”

At least half of university students are forced to rely on either private, family or government loans to attend university and, as StatsCan’s National Graduate Survey revealed, only a third of those loans were paid off within the first three years of graduating.

The study also found that undergraduate and master’s students in the class off of 2009-10 were left with an average $26,000 in debt. That number was substantially smaller among college graduates, who owed at least $14,900.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for young graduates.

A study conducted by Finnie’s Education Policy Research Initiative found that over a 13-year period, graduates across all fields earned between $41,000 and $47,000 in their first year after graduation, but those earnings generally increased substantially over time.

“What my analysis shows is that [graduates] are in general making quite a bit more than the barista myth they have been fed would suggest,” Finnie said.

The study also found that earnings potential varied, depending on the faculties students graduated from. It found the most volatile earning patterns were among those who graduated from business, computer science, engineering and natural sciences programs.
– via BNN

A Unique Answer For Each Unique Person

Like most major issues, this one isn’t cut and dry and shouldn’t be treated as an either/or. Yes, for some a university degree is more than worth the time, money, and energy invested in obtaining it.

For others, their life and paycheck won’t be bettered by a diploma – but college or trade certification could change their life!

Maybe it’s time to stop listening to society’s expectations for students fresh out of secondary and instead weigh the pros and cons for each person, individually.

Realistic assessment needed

Far too few Canadian families take time to examine the alternatives and to figure out the best match between abilities, resources, and realistic job opportunities. They have, instead, accepted the mantra about the extraordinary value of a university degree and do not examine all of the possibilities before them.

As the first step in the process, students going to post-secondary education and their parents need to take stock. They need to do a realistic assessment of the individual’s interests and abilities. A young adult who rarely reads, hates writing and doesn’t like mathematics is unlikely to discover many options at university. A young person who tinkers with electrical equipment, likes to work with their hands and enjoys practical problems could be exceptionally well-suited to a technical program in a college.

Quite often, a proper discussion with a potential student could reveal a real exhaustion with organized learning, a desire to travel, a preference for paid employment or other priorities that make it clear that heading directly to a post-secondary institution of any variety is not a good idea.

As people consider the options before them, it is vital to remember that these colleges have changed dramatically in recent years. Many of the college and polytech courses are intellectually demanding, technologically enriched and highly applied. Some are harder to get into than most university programs.

With the excellent connections that colleges and polytechs have to the local and regional job market, these institutions are also careful to match the number of graduates with available opportunities, a measure of restraint and connectedness that does not apply to universities. Many of the colleges are also outfitted with the latest equipment and provide excellent workplace-based learning opportunities.

Canadian youth and their parents need to become much more sophisticated analysts of the world of work and, as well, the training and educational opportunities available to them. We have seen enormous change in the Canadian workforce over the past two decades, tied to technological advances, global competition and the rise of Asia.

The future promises even greater uncertainty. Recent estimates suggest that up to 50 per cent of all North American jobs could be replaced in a generation through digital innovations.

It is unclear what new work will be created. No one knows just what the future holds for young Canadians. What is obvious is that families and individuals have to be much more thoughtful than in the past and must explore all options and opportunities as they prepare for entry to an uncertain and fast-changing workforce.
– via CBC News

Did you get a post-secondary degree? Do you believe a university education is all it’s made out to be?

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